Give me a shot to remember and you can take all the pain away from me. A kiss and I will surrender; the sharpest lives are deadliest to leadThe Sharpest Lives – My Chemical Romance
I thought about alcohol every single day for the first six months of sobriety. Every. Single. Day. During month 6, I struggled big time. I wasn’t just thinking about alcohol constantly anymore, I was thinking about actively drinking again. I was weighing the pros and cons. I was trying to talk myself into it. Then, halfway into month 7, out of nowhere I realized, I haven’t thought about alcohol. How is that possible? It was the most amazingly freeing feeling I have ever experienced. After years of drinking and the constant thoughts in my head, it finally stopped. It was as if my brain had reset itself to before I took my first sip of alcohol – to a time when it didn’t interest me and to a time when I didn’t care.
I happily went about my days for the next two months. But then friends, Jack and Stacy, came to visit. These are the friends who go to wine tastings, are part of a wine club, and who genuinely appreciate a good bottle of wine over dinner. It was then I realized the day drinking, bar hopping, permanent vacation loving, heavy drinking crowd was not the crowd to be wary of. If anything those are the people who help remind me why I am sober. It is the sophisticated, wine tasting, vineyard going crowd that is the problem. These are the people who start making me think I can get a flight of wine with dinner and be fine. BAM! As if a bus hit me in the middle of the road, the drinking thoughts came back during July (month 9) at full force. Worse than before. I started listening more to the voice in my head. The voice that says, you’re really not that bad, you can have a couple, you’ve done so well that now you can moderate, you won’t have to miss out anymore, everything will be ok. I’m going to be honest – I wanted to cave in. The voice in my head got so loud I just wanted to make it stop.
It’s the end of July. I am home alone watching tv, trying to ignore the voice in my head. It’s screaming at me. I march myself into the kitchen, pull out an old, less than a quarter full bottle of stale wine out of the fridge and set it on the counter (most people in the sober community suggest not having alcohol in the house at all but that is for a different discussion). The recovery memoir I’m reading, Girl Walks Out of a Bar, is sitting next to the bottle. I’m stare at the bottle, then at the book, then back at the bottle. You know what’s going to happen if you drink this wine. You will throw everything away. Over 7 months wasted. And for what? Nothing! You’ve come so far, you don’t want to fall apart now. As they say in AA, play the tape forward.
I’m not sure how much time elapses between the time I get the bottle out and the time my phone rang, but it feels like a very long time. It’s Josh asking if I would like to hang out. Literally, saved by the bell. I take a deep breath, empty the bottle of wine down the sink and go meet Josh. In all honesty, was I going to drink? No. But, the level of frustration caused by the voice in my head was enough to make me seriously wobble.
Another event shortly after causes a huge stir not just for me but for Josh as well. A friend has come to visit from for a few days. I go with him to dinner while we wait for Josh to finish a gig, he has a margarita while I have an ice tea – all is good. We head back home, he has two beers and I have water. Josh comes home and breaks out a twisted tea. What the hell! Why do you need to drink!?
Immediately, the voice in my head is behaving like a complete brat. I’m frustrated and irritated at Josh drinking but not our friend. We decide to get some food at a local bar. Ironically, Josh and I had just been there a few days prior in which we both got food and drank ice tea. A drunken man next to us asked Josh if he wouldn’t mind telling him the amount of his bar tab – man was attempting to read the check upside down. Josh turns to me, chuckles, and says “is that a good reminder for you?” in response to me telling him I was struggling with drinking thoughts.
Well, here we are again with our friend. And I am having a meltdown in my head. “Ice tea?” Josh asks. “Fine. Whatever.” I say abruptly. I don’t want a fucking ice tea!!! I want to drink everything in this bar. I want you to not drinking anything!! Why do you have to drink? The night goes on, we are back at the house, play a game and head to bed. Josh has 4 or 5 drinks over the course of the night, he’s not drunk and he didn’t do anything wrong. But the entire night I am so miserable, I can’t stand myself and I know it’s only me to blame.
The next few days, Josh and I talk about how I’m feeling. I tell him I appreciate the fact that he didn’t drink around me, or much at all, the entire winter. But now, I’m extremely upset every time he drinks and I don’t know where it’s coming from. That’s a lie. Yes I do. It’s coming from a place of wanting support from him. Yes, I know he barely drinks now, lightyears apart from how he and I both used to drink. But, even though its unfair and irrational, I want his support in the form of him not drinking.
He brings up that exact thought. I tell him I don’t want him to feel forced to quit drinking (in this case not totally, just around me) and unless it’s something he truly wants to do, it will cause resentment between us. It’s a difficult conversation to have that spans a couple days. He says he supports me. He says that he will check in with me. There may be times where he wants to have a drink with friends and he wants to be able to do that. At the same time, if I am uncomfortable and ask him not to drink for an evening out, he won’t. That’s fair. We decide to take situations as they come and to communicate even more. It’s not really what I want. I want him to join me and never drink again. But, that’s not realistic and not fair to him. So, I can accept communication and compromise. I can be halfway happy.
I’ve said this before and I will say it again: sobriety is difficult, period. In the end, I didn’t drink. I also didn’t just shove the experience away and never think about it again. I talked about it with my therapist, my acupuncturist, and a close friend. I got through it. And here I am, well into month 10, and the voice is quiet for now. Although, I haven’t thought about drinking in weeks and it’s not something I am remotely interested in right now, I also know the voice will come back at some point, possibly louder and stronger than before. The beautiful thing is that I know how to deal with the voice in my head. I know how to stand up to it and how to overpower it. The bad voice won’t ever go away completely but it will fade.